Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed a revised budget on Monday, May 15, cutting hundreds of millions more in state aid to cities and towns – including a drastic cut to West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
A revised budget proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Monday not only failed to return funds to West Hartford that would be cut under his initial proposal in February, but instead cuts nearly $17 million more in state aid to the town.
The total impact on West Hartford’s budget could be a reduction of state aid to the town in FY2018 of a figure approaching a staggering $30 million.
A news release issued with the governor’s latest budget proposal states that it is “designed to maintain the administration’s goals of providing more fiscal stability and predictability for taxpayer, businesses, and local governments, while continuing bolster the state’s efforts to grow the economy and create jobs.”
And while the newest state budget proposal would cut General Fund expenditures by another $241 million and other funds by $363 million in FY2018 to take into account the growing deficit, it also bolsters aid to many of the state’s larger cities, including Hartford.
“It whacks West Hartford and gives more money to the city,” Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said. “It’s like draining the blood from the body.”
“It’s shocking. It’s not manageable. It will gut our community,” Mayor Shari Cantor said.
Van Winkle, Cantor, and other town administrators were still crunching the numbers Monday after receiving the latest proposal, but an initial analysis shows that the combined impact of further reductions to Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funds plus elimination of a Special Education Grant, the Motor Vehicle Grant, and other changes are about $17 million. Under this proposal, the town would still be responsible for a portion of teacher pension expenses, although slightly less ($7.9 million rather than $8.01 million).
That’s just the additional cuts made in this proposal. “The meaningful number is more like $28 or $29 million,” Van Winkle said.
“I hope that there’s an understanding that all communities contribute to the state’s vitality,” Cantor said. “West Hartford is very much a part of that and to sacrifice the financial stability of the town – a vibrant, diverse inner-ring suburb – is just unfathomable.”
Van Winkle said he considers the prospect of this budget actually passing to be very slim, and until the state actually passes a budget there’s not any need for the town to take fiscal action.
“This proposal – coupled with the original plan to cut more than $14 million in support to West Hartford – would be a devastating one-two punch for our schools, services for seniors, and everyone who pays property taxes,” State Rep. Derek Slap (D-19th) said Monday.
There’s way too much uncertainty, and Van Winkle doesn’t have any hopes that the state will pass a budget by June. In this proposal, the state is playing “big brother” by keeping the mill rate cap for vehicles, Van Winkle said.
West Hartford passed its $285.4 budget on April 25, 2017, and it will take effect July 1, 2017, regardless of where the state is in its budget process.
“This is only one of many budgets,” Van Winkle said of Monday’s proposal from Malloy. There are budgets from the governor, as well as from the Republicans and Democrats. From West Hartford’s perspective, he said, “This one is certainly the worst of any of the budgets.”
Van Winkle said that many legislators – including those in West Hartford’s delegation – referred to the governor’s initial budget proposal as “dead on arrival,” and this one is even more devastating to West Hartford, as well as to many other municipalities some of which – like Avon, Farmington, and Glastonbury – would have ECS completely eliminated.
“Unbelievable” was the term that Slap used to describe the latest proposal. “I will continue working with the West Hartford delegation and other members of the General Assembly to find a better solution.”
“Whatever the state decides to do we’ll have to deal with,” Van Winkle said. “I can’t fathom this would have a chance of passing.”
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